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Karlheinz Stockhausen: Gruppen / Punkte Import

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, May 22, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Gruppen, pour 3 orchestres - Punkte, pour orchestre / Orch. Symphonique de Cologne (WDR), dir. Arturo Tamayo & Péter Eötvös

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Gruppen, for 3 orchestras
  2. Punkte, for orchestra

Product Details

  • Orchestra: WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln
  • Conductor: Peter Eötvös
  • Composer: Karlheinz Stockhausen
  • Audio CD (May 22, 2006)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Budapest Music Center
  • ASIN: B000ENC6P0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #258,864 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Mr. M. J. Berridge on March 8, 2007
Format: Audio CD
I can only discuss "Gruppen", and do so because I know this piece well, and am displeased with 2 of the other reviews offered. Most of the latter I cannot make any sense of at all, and I will not make any pretense at doing so. This music is for the listener sitting before his Hi Fi, and not a mathematician, or an analyst trying to follow with a copy of the score. A roller coaster ride is enjoyable merely for the experience itself - the mathematics of the angles and bends and speed versus gradient etc are irrelevant to this entertainment. I enjoy "Gruppen" because it is a fascinating dialogue between groups or soloists of a large ensemble of musicians. There is one section, for instance, where a trombone and piano seem to be trying to imitate each other. It is exciting, playfull, humorous at times, colourfull, and the experience is on a grand scale! It doesn't seem to be trying to say anything; no moods and certainly no gloom and doom, and no pointless gaps of silence or meditation. It's just a wonderfull concert of orchestral chatter in which you cannot guess what's going to happen next. You don't have to have any special training to be able to enjoy this experience!
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Format: Audio CD
When I started listening to contemporary classical music (aka Neuemusik, or New Music) in 2000, the name Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) loomed large over that soundscape. It was quite frustrating to find that very little of his extensive output was widely available. At that time he had asserted copyright control and most of the recordings of his music were available only from his own Stockhausen-Verlag company in Germany by airmail, with astronomical handling charges. What little Stockhausen I heard was not at all impressive, and I decided to move on to other sounds.

The situation dramatically changed with the release of this Budapest Music Center disc in 2006. These are superb recordings of "Gruppen" and "Punkte," two major Stockhausen compositions for orchestra, with Peter Eotvos leading the WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln, recorded in 1997 and 2004. Eotvos (b. 1944), the Hungarian composer and conductor, was a regular member of the Stockhausen Ensemble from 1968 to 1976, and so has an intimate working knowledge of Stockhausen's scores and thinking about how they should be performed. Stockhausen was long based in Koln (Cologne), and "Gruppen" was commissioned by, first performed by, and first recorded by the WDR, so clearly this is the most authoritative orchestra to perform the legendary work. (WDR stands for Westdeutscher Rundfunk, or West German Radio.)

"Gruppen (Groups) for 3 orchestras" (1955-57 -- 24'30) is written for an orchestra of 108 players, divided into three groups of 36. Each group is about half strings and the other half equal numbers of woodwinds, brass, and percussion, the percussion both pitched and unpitched. "Gruppen" was pathbreaking in many ways.
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To get to the point: (1) this is one of Stockhausen's best pieces; it influenced Boulez' own orchestral writing (in Pli selon pli and Figures/Doubles/Prismes, for instance), and was ripped off by Berio (in Tempo e Tempi, I think); it superimposes different tempi, as did Zeitmasse for wind quintet, although in much denser form (and is thus comparable to Carter's orchestral work from the Orchestra Variations onwards). Robin Maconie, author of the definitive book on Stockhausen, thinks "Gruppen" was influenced by the dense textures and spatial experiments of American orchestral music (Ives, Brant). (2) Peter Eotvos is a veteran who has been working with Stockhausen for at least 40 years or so (he was part of the Stockhausen Ensemble in the 1960s, together with Kontarsky, Johannes Fritsch, perhaps Christoph Caskel). (3) One of the reviewers is slightly wrong about "Punkte," which is an earlier piece (1952) than Gruppen (1955-57), not later (although it was revised in 1962). (4) There is another CD performance of this piece by Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic, but Eotvos is very worth having. (5) This music is indeed unjustly neglected, as reviewer notes. It may be hard going, but is also quite spectacular (as in the build-up to the climax, which comes fairly near the beginning, and is led up to with plucked strings and percussion from all three orchestras). The way the orchestras throw long held wind chords around the space points straight ahead to "Carre" and to parts of "Pli selon pli" (first movement, "Don"), as noted. You will rarely hear this live, since it requires many more rehearsal hours than anyone but a European state-subsidized orchestral can afford (i.e. the Suedwestfunk, once upon a time...).
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